Suffering: How Buddhism Helps Modern People Overcome Painful Emotions

I know. I am mentioning this word A LOT. It sounds so daunting, right?

Well, here it goes. Deep breaths and a cup of tea would help here 😉

As I sat in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, listening to the teachings and meditating from 5.30am to 9.30pm every day. All they were repeating was the word “suffering”.
Being who I am (or more accurately, who I was) I was wondering, at least for the first day, why did I travel all the way to Nepal “in search for happiness” just to listen about the opposite; as if I wanted a prescription from the Buddhist monks and head back to London and order over the counter to consume it daily 😉

I see a lot of this attitude everywhere around me. In particular being a coach and people asking me for help. It’s the fix, the strategy, something to give them to feel better. That’s the expectations we all have. We want the solution but are not willing to go through the process. As if we wanted a University degree without passing any of the exams (or at least sitting in classes to learn something and earn the degree).

But it doesn’t work like this.

There is nothing anyone in this world can give us in order to receive happiness. What? How?? Why???

suffering

Because happiness is not a destination.
And it doesn’t happen outside of you.

Happiness is a state of mind.
It’s how you see things (perception), not how life supposedly treats you (something we state as a matter of fact when in reality it’s really and just all your ‘perception’ of that reality).

In order to reach happiness, we must cultivate a happy mind.
And the only way to do that is to stop our suffering from fear, anger, jealousy, insecurity, greed, attachment, feeling of loss, anxiety, depression… you name it!

I know it’s not easy, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have those painful emotions and negative experiences.

If this sounds like that’s not you, that you don’t suffer, I beg you to think twice. We learnt yesterday that Buddha who was happier than we can even imagine went through the same. I even listen to my Buddhist monks who I study with, struggling with the same. Or the famous Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, who admits in her live retreats how she loses her temper and shows aggression towards her little granddaughter… 🙂 There is wisdom in admitting that you, like her, like me, like everyone else, suffer.

Surrender to that truth. And sit with it for a while. There is no shame to admit this to yourself, there is no failure in recognising it. There is truth to be told by you to you. And the reward starts exactly in that truth.

The ticket to happiness is to start peeling our mind (thoughts and emotions as we like to call it) from the negative. In the same way, as we would peel off layers of an onion. That part, deep inside the onion, is where your little Buddha nature sits. The rest is your polluted mind. By polluted mind I mean the thinking and behaviour we are trained to execute.

Great examples of this behaviors are judging (that includes commenting on someone else’s dress that’s out of fashion, you know!), labeling (putting others in boxes of definition), perceiving reality quite wrongly (my view is the ultimate truth, a fact! And not considering for one moment that there are as many views as there are people on this Earth), being righteous (ego needs to win, no allowance of compassion and kindness and gentleness to step in), anger (reacting to someone else’s “labeled as ‘bad’’ behavior, instead of not giving it so much power over our peace of mind), attachment (telling our partner that his lack of showing emotions in the way we ‘need’ it affects our happiness).
The list goes on in eternity 😉

How do we go about getting rid of these emotions and how do we stop suffering?

I won’t lie. It takes aeons of lifetimes and it results in enlightenment. However, before you get discouraged as you are still attached to the quick fix ;-), the truth here is that you and I or anyone else has any other choice than to start the inner work.

Our happiness sits in the core of our own ‘onion’. Not outside or on the third layer…Eventually, no matter in which lifetime, you’ll have to start somewhere. And my guess is, if you’re sitting here, you might be further down the spiritually growing journey than you give yourself credit for.

Suffering is everywhere. You might even feel it reading my lines. I would salute you if you would say yes to this. I am surely suffering every day, hence my motivation to diminish it and in time to become a free human being.

 

So, in practical steps, here is where to start.

1. We have to accept the fact that we suffer.

2. We have to admit that we have negative traits and emotions within us, like everyone else.

In my opinion, if #2 is not something we’re willing to do, we have no other choice than stopping all of this and continue as we are.

3. We have to understand how our mind works. Meaning, we start to observe our own mind. We learn to understand it and then train it so that the wise part of us (which is currently dormant and controlled by the mind that contains all the pollution), can take over and get into the driver’s seat. This will result in you having your reactions and views on things under control, being able to see positive and for what it truly is before we develop the negative emotions that cause us pain (such as anger).

This is called Buddhist psychology, and it’s personally my favourite part of Buddhism. 

Just a note to any psychologists amongst us, the Buddhist psychology’s approach clashes with the conventional psychology in many ways; two main difference being that

a) Our life doesn’t start with our childhood, but we had many lifetimes before we sadly don’t recall (so we don’t find all the explanations of cause and effect in childhood as dear Freud educated us to think) and

b) Anger as a strong and super valid example most people struggle with (whether disguised in resentment or expressed) shouldn’t be released. Instead, we should reflect on our reaction before we generate anger. And that is 100% possible. I wholeheartedly swear on this as I suffer from anger a lot and have tried and studied both the conventional path and the Buddhist path.

So the bottom line is; admitting to yourself that you have things to learn and accept about yourself will lead to the understanding of your own mind. This then leads you to experience how good and happy you feel when you change your patterns and it will have an impact on all aspects of your life. When you sort out the inside, the outside falls into place. Your life is the reflection of what you think.

Ponder on this a little. Do you see anyone who is less ‘successful’, or poor or had lost their children and loved ones, yet they seem to be happy and full of kindness in them? How does your view on your life differ from their view on theirs?

Sending you all my love. I feel humble to be able to share this with you.


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